Oaks Estate residents unhappy about being asked to clean their own public toilet
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Oaks Estate residents unhappy about being asked to clean their own public toilet

Residents of Oaks Estate have criticised the ACT government's lack of attention to the historic village, insulted at being asked to clean a public toilet being considered for a local park.

After securing a Commonwealth grant for the construction of new toilets in Gillespie Park, the Oaks Estate Progress Association said requests for assistance from the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate had shown the ACT government was unwilling to provide adequate local services and support.

Oaks Estate residents are unhappy with the ACT government over their rates and services. From left, Pablo Serazio, Kate Gauthier, her son Luther Griffin, 4, and Adam Stokes.

Oaks Estate residents are unhappy with the ACT government over their rates and services. From left, Pablo Serazio, Kate Gauthier, her son Luther Griffin, 4, and Adam Stokes.

Photo: Graham Tidy

A government staffer asked locals if they would be willing to clean the toilet if the government supported its installation.

Oaks Estate Progress Association president Adam Stephan-Slade said the latest problems highlighted the government's belief that the community was "too remote to care about".

Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury, pictured, described the lack of prison work programs as a "gap" in the Alexander Maconochie Centre's rehabilitation efforts.

Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury, pictured, described the lack of prison work programs as a "gap" in the Alexander Maconochie Centre's rehabilitation efforts.

Photo: Rohan Thomson
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"If this is a stance that the government is taking, then I think we need to question it. We pay rates so they will provide services. That's the deal," he said.

"I don't think it is acceptable to even suggest we clean a public toilet. That's a service that is provided by local government, just like delivering bins or mowing lawns."

Mr Stephan-Slade said other communities in Canberra got better services, including rubbish collection.

"We're 10 minutes from Civic. We're bang on next to Queanbeyan and a lot of people come over to use the park. It's not good enough."

He said the government's estimated $100,000 cost for a toilet was well above quotes obtained by the community of about $27,000 plus $13,000 for sewerage connection. He called on the government to assist with the development application and ongoing care.

Liberal member for Molonglo Steve Doszpot said the government believed Oaks Estate was too remote to require attention.

"If that's the attitude he's going to have, it's time he handed over the reins. Oaks Estate is only six kilometres from Fyshwick and closer to the middle of Canberra that many other suburbs, yet it is still neglected.

"It's particularly disappointing that Mr Rattenbury's office asked the community why local residents couldn't maintain the proposed toilets themselves. This certainly wouldn't be suggested as a solution for residents in any other parts of Canberra and demonstrates what Shane Rattenbury really thinks about Oaks Estate," Mr Doszpot said.

Mr Rattenbury said cleaning costs had to be considered for the new toilet. A senior government officer visited Oaks Estate this month, and consultation was ongoing. The government spent $210,000 upgrading the park in 2011-12.

"What that has done is mark the park more popular, which has driven the push for toilets," Mr Rattenbury said.

"TAMS supplies toilets to high patronage parks and normally Gillespie Park wouldn't qualify. However the community has gone out and managed to raise some money."

He apologised for the suggestion that locals could clean the toilet.

"I direct all my staff to try and be creative. Clearly in the course of the conversation, someone has said there's maintenance issues… I can see people would be offended but at the same time, I encourage my staff to canvas ideas," Mr Rattenbury said.

"Clearly someone has taken offence to that, and I am sorry they have taken offence."

Tom McIlroy is a political reporter for the Financial Review in the federal press gallery at Parliament House.

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